Former seaman receives medal for deadly Arctic missions to Russia (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Former seaman receives medal for deadly Arctic missions to Russia
4:00pm Sunday 18th August 2013 in News
War veteran Arthur Taylor has received his Arctic Star medal, more than 65 years after the Second World War ended.
The 87-year-old veteran of Arctic convoy escort patrols received the medal through the post at his home at Royal Wootton Bassett.
The town’s Royal British Legion branch chairman Bryan Kingscote said: “I think there should have been an official presentation, but it just came through the post and Arthur didn’t want any fuss.”
Mr Taylor already held the Atlantic medal, but there has been a long campaign to secure the Arctic Star for those who served aboard the destroyers and frigates that escorted convoys carrying wartime supplies to Russia.
Mr Taylor has vivid memories of dangerous, icy voyages to Murmansk and Archangel, with the constant threat of attack from enemy U-boats.
“I’ve seen a ship sunk by a torpedo and we couldn’t even stop to pick up anyone, because we would have been a sitting target,” said Mr Taylor, who was an Able Seaman aboard HMS Zodiac, a Battle Class destroyer with twin gun turrents.
“After the war that ship was sold to the Australian Navy.”
He recalled the relentless task of smashing ice from cables on board.
“We had to do that, or the cables would became as thick as telegraph poles and would put the ship out of balance.”
He also saw a U-boat sunk by another ship.
“They brought it to the surface with a depth charge and a shell went straight through the conning tower.”
Mr Taylor cherishes his long-awaited Arctic Star and has purchased a miniature replica of the medal. He said: “Merchant Navy, Royal Navy, Bomber Command and Army personnel who served north of the Arctic Circle and west of the Urals for at least 24 hours between September 3, 1939, and May 8, 1945, are entitled to wear the Arctic Star.”
After the war, Mr Taylor served with the police as a special constable, initially in Scotland, where he was employed by Scottish railways, before he and his wife moved south, and settled in Wootton Bassett, where he worked for 25 years at the dairy cold store.
He and his late wife, Annie, met in her native Scotland, where his ship was at Scapa Flow.
“She was 15 then and I was 17. We were courting for six years before we married in 1949,” Mr Taylor said.
He was widowed six years ago.